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More Than One Way to Skin a Catfish: Catfish Tacos with Cucumber Salsa

I’ve mentioned before that I grew up in the rural Midwest (Bedford, Indiana, to be exact). Catfish was a part of everyday life. You could order it any way you wanted – as long as it was fried. I think I was pushing 40 before I found out that there wasn’t a law preventing you from preparing catfish different ways. I’d never had it other than batter-dipped, deep fried, and covered in tarter sauce. Now all of that has changed. How much farther can you run than Catfish Tacos with Cucumber Salsa?

Catfish has a uniquely gamey taste. I know it’s not for everyone’s palette, but I really enjoy it. It’s earthy and flavorful. Because of that, it can stand up to some strong flavors. If you don’t like the taste of catfish, then you obviously grew up in the big city and never fished in a creek behind your grandparents’ house. (OK, maybe you did go fishing and still don’t like catfish – just substitute a firm white fish, like tilapia or cod). Luckily, one of my local markets has catfish nuggets as a loss leader almost every week (they’re just the unattractive cuts of fish left over after they prepare the fillets). I used them, but you can certainly use catfish fillets, or any other fish you want.

Even though I’m running quickly from the deep-fried, tarter sauce-laden version, I still wanted to stay true to some of my roots. Instead of using tarter sauce with sweet relish, I decided to pair it with a cool yet sharp cucumber salsa and some sour cream. It’s not quite tarter sauce, but it’s reminiscent and tastes great – cool and spicy all at the same time.

And just because there wasn’t much color going on in the dish, I shredded up some red cabbage that I had in the crisper drawer – just to add a little contrasting hue, as well as some flavorful crunch.

To boost the color, flavor, and appeal of the plate, I tossed together some simple Cumin Sweet Potatoes as a side. (Sweet potatoes have to be one of my favorite vegetables – I’m always trying to come up with new ways to prepare them).

I used my TexMex Seasoning Blend to coat my catfish, but you can use any spicy grill seasoning blend you prefer. It’s no skin off of my nose (and it’s not like I’m ever going to find out either).

So if you haven’t tried catfish in a while (or if you think you don’t like it because of your past foray into the deep-fried version), give this recipe a try. You may just end up grabbing your fishing pole and heading for the creek to pull out some fresh ones.

Catfish Tacos with Cucumber Salsa


South of the border catfish

  • ½ of a hothouse or European cucumber (seeded and diced, but not peeled (about 1 C))
  • 3 scallions (chopped)
  • 1 garlic clove (minced)
  • 1 small jalapeño (minced (about 2T))
  • Juice of ½ a lime (about 1T)
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 lb. catfish fillets (patted dry)
  • 2 T vegetable oil
  • 1 T <a href=””>TexMex Seasoning Blend</a> (or your favorite southwest grill seasoning)
  • 8 6 ” corn tortillas
  • 1 C sour cream
  • 2 C shredded purple cabbage

To prepare salsa

  1. Combine cucumber, scallions, garlic, jalapeño, salt, and lime juice in a small mixing bowl.
  2. Place in refrigerator until ready to assemble tacos.

To prepare catfish

  1. Preheat a large skillet over medium high heat.
  2. Brush catfish fillets with vegetable oil and sprinkle with TexMex Seasoning Blend, coating both sides of the fillet.
  3. Place fillets in preheated skillet and sauté for 4-5 minutes per side, cooking catfish through thoroughly.
  4. Remove catfish to a plate and break into large pieces (small enough to fill tortillas).

To assemble tacos

  1. In batches, place tortillas in preheated skillet used to sauté catfish.
  2. Cook for 10-15 seconds per side, until heated through.
  3. Remove to a plate and cover with a tea towel until all tortillas are warmed.
  4. Place 1/8 of catfish into tortilla. Add ¼ C shredded cabbage.
  5. Top with 2T sour cream, and finish with 2T cucumber salsa.
  6. Serve with Cumin Sweet Potatoes.

 this post is reblogged from my earlier site, ‘Inexpensive Eating’